In order to practice becoming aware of your schemas and getting to know their influence, set aside a short moment, 5 minutes should be sufficient, to think about a recent situation that were problematic, which you probably could have handled better. Choose a quiet spot without distractions and settle into a comfortable position for this exercise. You can be seated or lying down; eyes closed or with a soft focus.
Think about the particular situation. Ask yourself whether you may have responded to the situation inappropriately. Would others have reacted the same way? What effect did your behavior have on the people around you? Did your actions intensify your emotions? Did you continue to overreact or did you withdraw? If your reaction, your thoughts, or feelings were somehow different or more intense than what you normally experience, then you have run into an active schema.
What set off your schema? For instance, did you feel excluded from the group (Social Isolation/Alienation schema)? Did you feel as though somehow you’re not as good as other people, and that you always end up messing things up (Failure schema)? Recognize that each schema has its own triggers. If you can be mindful of how a situation unfolds—what you’re feeling, thinking, and doing—then that can help you understand what may be triggering your schemas.What were you feeling at the time? What were you thinking? Where in the body were your emotions most strongly felt? Each schema has an associated thought, emotion, and area in the body. Therefore, you can learn how to recognize your schemas based on how and where your emotions manifest.
What were you feeling at the time? What were you thinking? Where in the body were your emotions most strongly felt? Each schema has an associated thought, emotion, and area in the body. Therefore, you can learn how to recognize your schemas based on how and where your emotions manifest.
Now, think about where this schema could have come from? Perhaps you were bullied as a child, or felt neglected, disapproved of, which are still making you feel vulnerable, insecure, hurt, or angry. Make a mental note of your thoughts and sensations in this exercise, and slowly return your attention to your environment.
By repeating this activity, you will become more mindful, understanding, and accepting of your problematic schemas, which is the first step to positive change.
It is also a useful idea to use a journal or notebook to jot down your experiences as you reflect on them. Soon, you will be able to recognize schemas as they arise, including the triggers that caused them, and their underlying causes. With this insight, you can start to positively address any personality issues that may cause problems for you in relationships at work, home, and in your social circle. In the next exercise, we will even delve a little deeper to understand the impact of maladaptive schemas.